Monday, September 12, 2016

Stan Wawrinka Can Beat Anyone at Tennis — Even Novak Djokovic

I like Djoko, but I was rooting for the underdog. Indeed, I'd never even watched Wawrinka.

It was a great match.


Stan Wawrinka looks more like a lumberjack than a tennis player. Thick shoulders, burly chest, scruffy beard and mustache. He’s strong but unpredictable. He likes to point to his head during matches, because he knows that if he keeps his mind clear and his one-handed backhand flowing, he can beat anyone.

Wawrinka played another magical major final at the U.S. Open on Sunday, when he defeated top seed Novak Djokovic 6-7(1), 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 in three hours and 55 minutes. In 2014, Wawrinka beat Djokovic in the Australian Open quarterfinals, before winning his first major title. He beat Djokovic again in the 2015 French Open final. He lost the first set in both of those matches, just like he did Sunday. His coach, Magnus Norman, has learned that there’s no need to worry.

“I know that he’s always going to come back,” Norman said. “He has more than one life in five sets.”

After a slow start on Sunday, Wawrinka, seeded third, punished Djokovic with strong serves, deep forehands and the one-handed backhand that Pete Sampras, winner of 14 major titles, once said made him jealous. Not even a medical timeout could slow him down. Wawrinka led 3-1 in the fourth set when Djokovic sat in his chair, took off his socks and had the trainer tape his broken, bleeding toenails. Wawrinka wasn’t pleased. He complained to the chair umpire. Djokovic apologized. And then Wawrinka swatted aside break points and held serve. He trailed 0-30 in the final game, but after saving 14 break points in the match, Wawrinka would bend no more. Djokovic missed a backhand on the final point.

“The more I win in a Grand Slam, the better I feel,” Wawrinka said. “When you play Novak, he’s a beast mentally. He’s going to push you.”
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